New Delhi - 6th November 2004
The Management of Hindustan Times
Distinguished Guests and Honourable Speakers
As salam o alaikum
Sat Sri Akal
and Good Afternoon
On behalf of my party and on my own behalf, I congratulate Hindustan Times for the Leadership Initiative series of lectures. I sincerely hope it develops into a successful forum to further the search for global peace and prosperity. I am indeed honoured and privileged to be invited to share the stage with some of the most eminent leaders of my generation and to offer my humble views before such a distinguished audience.
It also happens to be my first address in the land of my forefathers and I am, therefore, particularly mindful of the historical opportunity to try and place my views on partnership with this great country for a better world.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
There are more than 190 countries in the world today. They all communicate with one another directly or indirectly. In this age of Information Technology it is not possible to conceal facts for any length of time. Common folks are in a better position to assess facts from fiction. India has made giant strides in the field of IT and is recognised as the world’s largest democracy. Soon after independence India got rid of the prevailing feudal system thereby strengthening the democratic institutions. The development of this democratic process not only kept the armed forces at bay but also provided a boost to education among the masses. General education brought about a Middle Class, which started to play its crucial role in Politics as well as in Business. The democratic process in India proved the linchpin for its industrial advancement, particularly in the field of IT. It is forecasted that in the coming 15 to 20 years India will become one of strong economy in the world, if the rate of progress continues. For a country’s partnership and growth it is essential that the economy move in the right direction.
Before I proceed to take up the topic of the day, I would like to take the liberty of briefing you about the emergence, philosophy and the political journey of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) so far. We are the third largest political party in Pakistan. We stand for equal rights and opportunities for all irrespective of colour, creed, caste, sect, gender, ethnicity or religion. We strive tirelessly for tolerance, religious or otherwise and oppose fanaticism, terrorism and violence in all their manifestations. MQM is committed to the introduction of an entrepreneurial free market economy, good governance and independent judiciary capable of dispensing justice, transparent accountability, free Press and participation of women in all spheres of life. Our immediate political objective is to change the corrupt medieval feudal political system of Pakistan. We are, therefore, the only genuine party of the lower and middle classes, totally devoid of feudal lords and army Generals. The support that we enjoy from the people of Pakistan has been amply demonstrated in our performance during consecutive elections of 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002. Having started in March 1984 as a Mohajir Quami Movement out of the frustration of Mohajirs in Sindh, our track record today encourages even the Sindhi-speaking people from the rural areas of Sindh, who were led to believe by the Pakistan establishment that we would end up usurping their rights, are joining us in large numbers.
Why then, you may well ask, are we a part of the Government, which perpetuates army rule by undermining democracy and its institutions. We have paid a heavy price for pursuing our political objectives in a country where democracy is controlled. Given the circumstances, which prevail, our desire to serve the helpless, deprived and exploited peoples of Pakistan have indeed led us into political arrangements which we are neither comfortable in nor would deem desirable in better circumstances. The choice before us in Pakistan today is not Musharraf or democracy but between army and even more army. The very religious parties created by the army facilitate to see through constitutional changes which debilitate democratic processes in the long term and on the very next day take to the streets try to make the world believe that they are the vanguard of the fight to restore democracy. To place our politics in context, I would also like to briefly touch upon the loot and plunder of the wealth and resources of Sindh and Balochistan, including the denial of their legitimate share from the federal revenues and ever so increasingly their due share of water, the consequences in terms of the stark poverty in the rural areas and the severe environmental damage are there to be seen in both the provinces.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The scenario is so depressing that leadership of the day openly admits that the country would fall apart if the army did not run its affairs. What does it tell you? To me it signifies a telling blow to the very idea of Pakistan, a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent, and the two-nation theory, which continues to wreck untold miseries on the people of this region for the past five decades. Muslims are fighting and killing each other on the basis of tribal and linguistic affinity, sectarian strife is worse than ever before. Mosques and madarssas are but flourishing businesses. The less educated the Pesh Imam, the more popular and affluent he is likely to be. The advocates of Jihad, a medieval concept to tame the infidel, are wantonly killing followers of the faith as they leave places of worship. Perhaps the idea of Pakistan was dead at its inception, when the majority of Muslims chose to stay back after partition, a truism reiterated in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. If you need further evidence look at the plight of 300,000 Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh for three decades in their passage to the chosen land. Unwanted by both Bangladesh and Pakistan, led by an unknown destiny.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The rights of the people who migrated to Pakistan from Muslim Minority Provinces of the Subcontinent was usurped and they had to face highhandedness and injustices. We formed the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) against these injustices. To crush our Movement, baseless accusations were made and we were termed “traitors”. We were targeted through State oppression. In 1993, during the Army Operation against the MQM, General Elections were held. The Army imposed a ban on the MQM to contest these elections from a few constituencies to allow the army’s created group to win the elections and to demonstrate to the world that the people of urban centres of Sindh do not support the MQM. On this illegal and unconstitutional ban, the MQM decided to boycott the General Elections in protest. On our appeal, the people of Sindh successfully boycotted the General Elections also witnessed by the international observers. As a result, the entire election process became dubious and then the high army officials requested us to take part in the provincial assembly elections. With assurances of free and fair participation in the elections – on a 48-hour notice, we participated in the provincial elections and the people overwhelmingly bestowed their mandate in favour of the MQM. If the charges of terrorism levelled against the MQM had been true then the people of Sindh would have supported the army operation against the MQM and in the presence of army they would not have effectively boycotted the elections and would not have given their mandate to the MQM. However, the people’s mandate was not respected and the State operation continued unabated against the MQM – and we were even not allowed to peacefully protest against this operation within the country.
No one can prove that we have pleaded anybody else’s case except our own at international fora including the UN. We did, however, seek moral, political and diplomatic support from the countries, which stand for democracy and human rights. My representatives have met officials of the United States and many European countries because we were pushed against the wall and forced by our own government to take our case worldwide because they remained arrogant and hell-bent on not providing rights and oppressed us militarily instead of sincerely and meaningfully negotiating with us in accordance with the democratic norms.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
May I now revert to the topic of the Seminar and with your permission to make references to our party wherever appropriate.
The title of the conference “ India and the World: A Blueprint for Partnership and Growth” has a welcome optimistic connotation. The themes of the future for the people of South Asia are indeed partnership and growth. Obviously, the first requirement for either to happen is that peace and normalcy must prevail. For much too long, Pakistan and India have been at odds. If we look around, we see unrest in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, Afghanistan is still looking for peace.
India and Pakistan, being the two largest in the region, need to demonstrate magnanimity and the necessary political wisdom and desire to truly seek peace. If this be so, it should be possible to pursue a meaningful, sincere and a composite dialogue with an open mind. I wish to take this opportunity to place on record the sincere appreciation of the MQM, and my own, of the recent initiatives by successive Prime Ministers of India, President General Pervez Musharraf and all those who may have been involved or contributed to the same. It is imperative that the current ambience be maintained to enable the process to evolve gradually. We see the approach in first tackling the issue of creation of processes necessary for carrying on the dialogue as a wise one. It is quite clear that the necessary architecture is now slowly but surely falling in place in a manner, which would impart continuity and stability to the dialogue process itself. It is also heartening that a wide-range of outstanding issues is being simultaneously addressed at several levels.
I would appeal in particular to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters to show, at this crucial juncture, the necessary sagacity to allow the Indo-Pak dialogue to proceed on the basis of mutual adjustment and agreement. It should be clear to all concerned that there can be no military solution to any of the contentious issues, let alone the issue of Kashmir. Neither for that matter can resort to militancy and extremism. The mindless loss of lives, endless human rights violations and continuing depletion of developmental resources to deal with civil strife cannot be justified under any circumstances. As a representative of a persecuted minority forced to live in exile and to grieve the loss of colleagues and supporters day after day through extra-judicial processes, I can well understand the agony of the Kashmiris. Over 17,000 Mohajirs have been killed including leaders, supporters and their relatives during army and state operations. Thousands of Mohajir families have been rendered destitute because either their breadwinners were extra-judicially executed, arbitrarily arrested or forced into hiding or exile. My 66 years old brother Mr. Nasir Hussain and his son 28 years old Arif Hussain, were unlawfully arrested in the presence of their entire neighbourhood. They were brutally tortured for three days and on 9th December 1995 and then extra-judicially executed. Both were non-political citizens of Pakistan.
The total number of casualties in the four wars, including Kargil, was in excess of thirteen thousand. Most estimates suggest that already more than fifty thousand lives have been lost in Jammu and Kashmir alone causing misery and grief to family members, distorting the normal pattern of life and virtually destroying the local economy. Who benefits from all this? Can the people of Pakistan and India afford it? Can they countenance the diversion of these resources from their own development programmes, health programmes and education? Definitely not. Two million students are being taught currently in about fifty thousand madrassas run by right-wing religious parties totally outside Government supervision to promote a medieval ideology leading to the generation of 15 to 20 thousand new militants every year, year after year. Who will detoxify the society? How will they be reintegrated into the mainstream? I pay tributes to the Muslim leaders and intellectuals of India for maintaining moderation and not pushing the Muslims towards fanaticism and Jihad.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Confidence Building Measures contemplated to bring the people of both countries closer must be implemented vigorously. Let there be free people to people contact, let there also be cultural and social contacts, sporting contacts, political contacts, economic contacts, diplomatic contacts and if considered prudent by both countries, even military-to-military contacts to further peace and harmony. Presently, “People to People” ostensibly appears to be “Punjab to Punjab” contact. Sindh is also part of the region and therefore, her people equally deserve to freely interact with the people of adjoining states of India. However, denial to reopen the Khokrapar Munabao border and Ferry Service between Karachi and Bombay is nothing but stifling the rights of the people of Sindh. The people of Sindh are forced to take an expensive route via Islamabad to obtain visas and then Lahore to catch the train or the bus. It is now incumbent on the governments of India and Pakistan to re-open the Visa Office in Karachi, which would further better the relationship.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have recently aired a few thoughts on “Realism and Practicalism” copies of which are in this hall. I will appreciate your comments on it. The spirit and essence of it is that we must accept the ground reality without blinkers. The reality today is that India and Pakistan are at loggerheads and as a result the region is in turmoil. Dialogue between India and Pakistan should be pursued in diversity and should not be a hostage to Kashmir issue only. Practicalism seeks ways for common or agreed grounds.
When we talk of Kashmir there are several procedural and allied issues which crop up. Is it a bilateral issue? Do the people of Kashmir come into the equation? I have a habit of speaking freely without mincing my words. I intend continuing to do so and gladly invite my critics to correct me on the credibility and the plausibility of my views, objectively, in India, Pakistan and internationally. To deal with Kashmir, there has to be a basis or options on which the talks could take place. What could those options be? Is the recently talked about “Chenab Formula” an option? Is “Dixon Plan” on option? Could formalisation of the Line of Control be an option? Are there any more options that we may not know about? We also talk about the UN Resolutions, could they be enforced? If it was enforceable, why has it not been enforced in the past? What have Tashkent and Simla Agreements and the Lahore Declaration yielded? Practicalism and Pragmatism call for acceptance of what is in existence or has been in existence instead of arbitrary new ideas. I understand that the people of Kashmir are also aspiring for independence, even for this option, negotiation has to take place. Negotiation is the primary condition for all options. The Line of Control could well be used as the basis to begin negotiations by virtue of being a ground reality, which has existed for the past three decades. I am saying, use this as a basis or option to begin talks until such a time that a practicable alternative option is found. What is wrong with it? If both countries resolve that crossing this line would be considered as aggression, doesn’t it in lay man’s terms amount to an international border? If not, what is an international border? And, if this is not an option, then what options are we left with, another war? We have fought three wars over Kashmir, the governments may have achieved political victories and defeats, but what did the people achieve? Body bags of the soldiers and civilians, more widows and orphans, more taxes, contribution to war funds, poverty and backwardness. And, if we remain intransigent and squander this opportunity, the cost to be paid in the long term could be horrid.
Before I go further I would like to quote the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (1181), “Where there is hatred, let me sow love…”
On the spirit of this prayer I would like to request both the countries, India and Pakistan, to stop sowing the seeds of hatred and start sowing the seeds of love.
My plea is to let good sense and logic prevail and to let our peoples prosper. Let us divert critically required funds from defence to social and economic sectors. Our children need education; our villages need clean drinking water, electricity, medical care, everywhere there is a crying need for employment, better civic amenities and transport facilities etcetera. Let common sense prevail over arrogance and political expediencies. Let us arm our children with education, health and hygiene than nuclear bombs and missile. I applaud President General Pervez Musharraf for making a bold and courageous statement discarding plebiscite as an option. I had always maintained that it was never a practicable or implementable option. For the past 57 years, the leaders of Pakistan had not only misled the nation but also failed them by keeping them illiterate, impoverished, hungry, thirsty and without health facilities under the rubric of Kashmir to benefit one province to the detriment of other provinces.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The United States of America, now the unipolar power of the world and her western allies have historically supported the dictatorial and monarchical rulers in the developing world for their short term gains and opposed the moderate, liberal and enlightened Middle Class, as their sustained foreign policy. Their policies and mindsets have always been Election centric. They failed to calculate long-term repercussions of their foreign policies. These authoritarian and monarchical rulers deliberately promoted religious, sectarian, ethno-linguistic fanaticisms on the strength of the unbridled support of the west to protract their rules. Oppressed their people and produced Osama-bin-Laden, Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussain. And, now to rein in these forces, the US and her allies had to wage a global war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result of these wars, thousands of innocent people are being killed and millions of people are facing the wrath for no fault of theirs but their rulers. Inflictions of atrocities are resulting in psycho reactionary actions amongst millions. It is now essential for the United States of America and her western allies to review their policies, they should now support and nurture the moderate, enlightened and liberal Middle Class who are capable of dismantling the religious, sectarian and ethno-linguistic fanaticisms and established genuine democracies which would be mutually beneficial for their people and the West. In case of Pakistan, the historical and sustained support to Feudal-Mullah-Military alliance by the United States and West has already proved negative and has permeated rampant corruption, bad governance, denial of rights to the smaller provinces, illiteracy, impoverishment, unemployment, frustration amongst general populace and above all the religious, sectarian and ethno-linguistic fanaticism and violence.
South Asian countries in general and India and Pakistan in particular need do no more than draw lessons from Europe, whose post-war history is roughly the same length as our two nations. The European Union, which emerged out of the dictates of the economic well being of its people and the desire to fully actualise their individual potential in a collective manner, is a live demonstration of the possibilities that can be envisaged by the dynamic minds of visionary leaders. We should yearn for the day when we have a Common Union, perhaps even a Common currency while maintaining our sovereignties and dignities intact. We have the SAARC more in form than in content due to the rancour, which has blinded us. South Asia remains one of the most unintegrated regions of the world. We are looking forward to the implementation of the SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement) in January 2006 as outlined in the SAARC declaration of January 2004 in Islamabad. The creation of a free trade zone along with some degree of economic integration of SAARC countries could turn the region into a huge regional economic market, second only to China in terms of size. If futuristically developed along with a network of roads and railway connections to South East Asia and Central Asia, the future of our succeeding generations would indeed be bright. Restrictions on bilateral trade have forced both countries to import goods from third countries, which could have been traded far more economically, and efficiently from each other. Indo-Pak trade would ensure cheaper raw material, low transportation, less insurance costs etc. resulting in potential for quality products at competitive prices for consumers in both countries and larger markets for manufacturers.
Having resolved the external issues South Asian countries in general need to put their houses in order. They should stop discriminations on the basis of ethnicity, religion or descent. I request the Government of Pakistan to recognise and indemnify all the religious and ethno-linguistic and national minorities and treat them equally to foster a sense or ethno-linguistic pluralism and nationalism. All the Governments in the past have deliberately strengthened ethno-linguistic particularism in Pakistan under the rubrics of numerical majority and power. In democracy, only the numbers should not count. A state becomes successful only when it is truly able to accommodate the aspirations and the needs of its minorities. Pakistan should genuinely strive to devolve power to the provinces making them fully autonomous, reserving for the Federal administration only Defence, Foreign Affairs and Currency. If the Federation of the United States of America can remain stronger by having fully autonomous states then why should one assume that Federation of Pakistan would weaken if the provinces have fully autonomous status?
Mainstream political forces, including the MQM, equipped with liberal and progressive ideological underpinnings have the capability of transforming Pakistan into a democratic and progressive state at peace with itself and its neighbours. They can deliver good governance, an independent judiciary and freedom of the media.
The purpose of this conference is to discuss and prepare a “Road Map” for the economic, strategic and political future of India in relation to the world and the regional countries. To attain this objective we should find out the “Key” to achieve positive results, which is peace in the South Asia region. The region is the first gate to be opened for, and then we should proceed to open the second gate, which is the World. The word “Peace” is catalyst to positivism, success, prosperity, harmony, better economy, better understanding and relations with their neighbours.
If the regional countries have peace and better relations then it would ultimately draw the remaining world towards the region. The peace is the only and only “Key” through which India could have improved and long-lasting relations with the world but for this peace has to be established in the region first. The benefits that could be drawn by the South Asian Countries including Pakistan through peace could never be achieved through the use of nuclear weapons, atom bombs, chemical and biological weapons and a massive army. India and Pakistan have considered each other as enemies since independence but now to achieve the sacred objective of peace, better and long-lasting relations, both countries have to engage in a meaningful and sincere dialogue and cease all hostilities against each other.
Finally, I think South Asia needs to have a comprehensive human rights code that protects the people from unbridled state power. Freedom from poverty, hunger, illiteracy and provision of basic services be part of the human rights of the people of the sub-continent and our governments should be promoting an environment in which the people of the sub-continent achieve what people of other regions have achieved through peace and co-operation.